University of Limerick finally ended Waterford Institute of Technology’s long reign as Ashbourne Cup champions, having a point to spare after a hard-fought final at Queen’s University writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
In doing so, they were claiming their first title since 2005, and gaining revenge for a heartbreaking defeat in last year’s decider. On that occasion, a late free from Emma Comerford got WIT to extra time, and then a brilliant goal from Denise Gaule and a pointed free from distance by Trish Jackman turned a three-point deficit with two minutes left into a famous one-point win.
Cáit Devane was the chief contributor as UL motored into a five-point lead in the first half. The Tipperary sharpshooter was in clinical form but Katie Power managed to escape the shackles of Linda Bolger to hand-pass a goal against the run of play. That galvanised the Waterford side and keep them in contention at the break, trailing by just 0-7 to 1-3.
There was nothing in it in the second half as both sets of players gave their all in front of a packed crowd. UL probably had the better of the general play and Devane kept their noses in front. Comerford’s unerring free-taking kept the champions in touch though and when she converted from a tight angle, after Marie Dargan had equalised, they hit the front for the first time entering the final quarter.
Undoubtedly driven on by the pain of 12 months ago, the Shannonsiders hit back with three points. The pacey Julia White set up Devane to put them ahead with just five minutes remaining, and then Devane slotted a free awarded for a foul on White. Jackman pulled one back from a free but time ran out on WIT this time and it was UL that prevailed by virtue of a 0-12 to 1-8 scoreline.
UCC laid the foundation for their Purcell Cup final success in the first half as they tore out of the blocks with an intent that left DIT reeling. Player of the tournament, Katrina Mackey was amongst the scorers as they already had three points after 90 seconds and they had 1-6 on the board by the time the aforementioned Gaule got DIT off the mark from a free. The Kilkenny sharpshooter chipped in with a couple of more points as DIT settled down after that initial onslaught, and it took a fantastic save from Shauna Carroll to keep it at 1-7 to 0-4 at the interval.
DIT spurned another goal opportunity early in the second half, when Gaule drove over the bar from a penalty and not taking those chances was a folly punished clinically by the skull and crossbones. Indeed that point was DIT’s only score of the half and the Leesiders hit four points in a row, with the spectacular Mackey providing three of them, to claim the silverware on a 1-11 to 0-7 scoreline.
UCD recovered from a slow start to beat UUJ in the Ashbourne Shield final. Karen Kielt was on fire early on for Jordanstown but Susie O’Carroll and Jackie Quigley helped UCD to peg them back. Mary Kelly goaled to give Jordanstown a 1-8 to 1-7 half-time lead.
Quigley hit three points early in the second half though and when former Jordanstown player, Sarah Louise Carr scored a brilliant solo goal soon after, the margin was five points in UCD’s favour.
Niamh Mallon registered UUJ’s first score of the second period and followed up with two more to restore her side’s hopes but UCD redoubled their efforts and points from the excellent Quigley and O’Carroll left it 2-13 to 1-12 at the final whistle.
Meanwhile, Siobhán Flannery inspired IT Carlow as they beat St Pat’s 1-9 to 1-5 in the Fr Meachair Cup decider.